Anyone in business or part of a large organisation will not have escaped the rise and rise of change management programs, they are everywhere. Executives fret over doing it ‘right’ and employees fret over having it ‘done’ to them. But ask anyone to describe what it is and we often find that there is little consensus of opinion.
It was Heraclitus that said ‘Change is the only Constant’ as we see in the ever changing seasons in nature. And yet it is the very act of change that seems to be so difficult for organisations, and the larger the organisation, the more difficult that change appears to be. Yet the view of the ‘status quo’ is only an illusion that we cling to. For the organisation that you step into today is not the same as the one that you worked at yesterday, even if on the surface everything appears as it was; indefinable changes in people, processes, customers or products have occurred in the intervening hours between one dawn and the next.
We do of course have to use the logical tools of change management (roadmaps, project plans, gap analysis etc.) to make things happen when we want to effect a change in direction or performance, but only in as much as it is the navigation tools that help us along our journey. The real change has to happen in the hearts and minds of the individual, there has to be an intention to change for it to be successful.
The important dialogue that needs to occur is around some fundamental questions such as:
- What is getting in the way of us making these changes?
- What are we holding onto in terms of core beliefs, attitudes or ritualised behaviours that gets in the way of making these changes?
- Why do our people not feel empowered to make the required changes?
In organisations big and small it can often come down to issues such as:
- A parent to child relationship between the employer and the employee – a ‘we tell you do’ attitude that is pervasive though every level of management
- Blame is the default reaction to problems – there is little or no tolerance to good old fashioned human error. In fact it is preferred that mistakes are glossed over rather than unearthed and learnings taken from them. It is more important in this type of culture for managers and leaders to ‘save face’ rather than hold open a discussion on potential shortcomings.
- A belief that nothing can ever go wrong – this is particularly strong in growing organisations or those that have not yet plateaued. A feeling of invincibility pervades the culture often resulting in early warning signs being filtered out until the issues start to seriously harm internal performance or customer loyalty.
But if we view change management as an organic process, we can see a more holistic and encompassing approach to managing change; one that is based on clear simple changes at the individual level of leaders, managers and operators. By focusing on tangible steps, new patterns of working and allowing time for reflection and tolerance for mistakes, it is possible to create the momentum for change and give people the confidence to take the risks, make the decisions and try out new and unchartered paths. This can be done by:
- stating the reasons for change, what the journey will look like and why the destination is better than the current position and sharing this honestly with all employees in simple and engaging terms,
- giving employees every opportunity to get involved and make things happen (and that also means not overcrowding the space with external experts – speaking as one) and taking some chances on the untested talent that comes forward,
- regularly informing employees of how progress is made, sharing the good, the bad and if necessary the ugly stories, so that they understand and can continue to feel engaged in the process.
What do you think? Have you examples of change management from your organisations or projects that you would like to share here?
Agents2Change specialises in Change Management, Implementation and Performance Management. For more information visit us at www.agents2change.com